Crossposted from Haaretz
Whether it’s Malevich’s black or white square, the figure of the collector, the cardinal or the church that appears in Norbert Schwontkowski’s paintings, central to the work will be an existential question about life and death. It reflects the basic lack of trust and faith that he experienced as a boy growing up in post-World War II Germany. Last week, he was a guest at a painters’ gathering at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design.
About a year ago, at a similar gathering at the Darom Gallery for independent art in south Tel Aviv, the public met with artist spokespersons to discuss painting and its role today and how to talk about it. Passionate arguments erupted. Painter Yonatan Gold thought that an important discussion had begun, one it was very important to continue. Gold, who began this year to teach in the new art department at Shenkar, quickly joined up with Larry Abramson (also at the Darom gathering and the head of the Shenkar department), and they moved to invite international artists to expand the boundaries of the discussion.
Although it may seem odd to hear a man who drew caricatures for a living talk about what it felt like to live through the horrors of the former Soviet Union, this is exactly what happens in the documentary “Stalin Thought of You.”
Meet Boris Efimovich Efimov, a political cartoonist who witnessed every major event in the history of the Soviet Union — from the Russian Revolution to the collapse of the Berlin Wall — before he died at the age of 109, in 2008. In the film, which screened on January 12 at the New York Jewish Film Festival, Efimov appears as a small, fragile man with a robust personality. His prescription glasses are weighty, yet his attitude is buoyant. His wit and charm and ability to tell an endearing story all seem natural before the camera. Either that, or these qualities are the result of over ten decades of practice.
When Claudine Faifer unwrapped the 165 oil paintings that arrived at her Miami Beach home last May, the first thing she thought was, “ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod!” There, among the vibrant scenes of clowns, carnivals and cafés, were 65 erotic images painted by her father, the late Jacques Faifer, a little-known artist whose colorful works capture Parisian life in the mid-20th century.
“For years I’d been begging my father: Give me some paintings, give me some paintings,” Ms. Faifer told the Forward. Her father — a French Jew who survived World War II by hiding in a monastery — promised she’d inherit his work when he died. “He never thought his paintings were good enough,” she added. “It was like a child for him, painting, and he wanted to be sure the people would love [his work] and it would have a good home.”
For 70 years, fans of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator,” now widely available on DVD, have marveled at the prescience of the comedian’s anti-Nazi satire. Filmed before America actually entered World War II, when some Hollywood movie moguls still soft-pedaled critiques of Hitler, “The Great Dictator” continues to fascinate today.
Recently published by Les éditions Capricci in Nantes, France, “Why Hairdressers? Timely Notes about ‘The Great Dictator,’” by film critic Jean Narboni, makes some new and cogent observations about Chaplin’s film. Narboni, a veteran journalist for the Cahiers du cinéma, compares the nonsense German-like doublespeak used by Chaplin as the dictator Hynkel (see video below) with the Nazi’s “constant corruption of the German language” as noted by the philologist Victor Klemperer.
“Do you have to be handsome to play the role of a Nazi commander?”
That was a question that actor Ralph Fiennes was asked during a January 9 discussion, titled “The Power of Film and the Holocaust” at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Fiennes didn’t have a clear answer.
The British actor, whose role as Amon Göth, SS commander of Plaszow concentration camp in “Schindler’s List” was described by director Steven Spielberg as “sexual evil,” did not rule out the part aesthetics played in the Nazi propaganda machine. He recalled his first fitting of the SS uniform in his trailer on the Krakow, Poland set of “Schindler’s List.” “The uniform is designed to have an impact,” he said.